WASHINGTON — Cancer deaths in the United States continued to decline over the past decade, said a yearly report on U.S. cancer statistics released Wednesday. Trends in death rates from cancer declined an average of 1.7 percent per year among men and 1.3 percent among women and children from 1998 to 2008, the latest period studied, said the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. New cancer diagnoses also decreased less than one percent per year from 1996 to 2006 and leveled off from 2006 to 2008.
Cancer rates and deaths began to decline among U.S. men and women in the 1990s, marking the first such drop since the 1930s. The report was compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. The decline in death rates was seen for many common cancers, but there were some exceptions. Among men and women, death rates due to pancreatic cancer rose slightly. Death rates from liver cancer and melanoma rose among men, and death rates from uterine cancer rose in women. The report focused in the average yearly incidence rates of cancers and cancer deaths per 100,000 people in the population, and highlighted the problem of cancers caused by obesity in a nation where two in three people are overweight or obese. “This report emphasizes that the growing obesity problem and decreased physical activity in our society compared to decades ago have a real impact on multiple diseases, including cancer,” said Jeffrey Meyerhardt, a colorectal cancer expert at Harvard University. “While we currently see declines in incidence of many cancers, if obesity continues at the current rates, I believe improvements in incidences will reverse and increase over time.” The American Cancer Society has projected that 577,190 Americans will die of cancer in 2012 and over 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed.